Las Cruces, NM
As far as I can remember Nellie’s has the distinction of being the first New Mexican restaurant I tried in Las Cruces (other than La Posta in Mesilla). Nellie’s was the favorite of my relatives and the one we headed to first when we were in the City of the Crosses. From this time in the mid 1970’s until after 2000 I never noticed a change in the quality of Nellie’s, and it has always been as good as I remember from the first time I ate here.
The only thing that has changed, though, has been the hours (and of course the prices have gone up over the years). They no longer have dinner hours, and now close at 3:00 p.m. While not a change from the old days, they are also closed from Christmas until about the third week in January, and again for a vacation in the summer. I either read or was told that this is the way they have been able to keep this family owned business alive for so long without having to close.
Nellie’s has always been my idea of what southern New Mexican style food should be. The red chile has always been my favorite here, but others have told me the green chile is best. This is the restaurant where I developed a great love for stuffed sopapillas, and this is my favorite dish here. Really, though, everything is good (a friend of mine tells me they have the best huevos rancheros ever).
I believe there are several candidates in New Mexico for the best red chile, and Nellie’s is certainly one of them. What I especially like about Nellie’s, though, is that the heat level is not extremely high but the flavor of the chile is as good as the hotter varieties.
Stuffed Sopapilla (a.k.a. Sopapilla Compuesta)
The Stuffed Sopapilla is my favorite dish, and I am very glad I can go back and get the same dish I enjoyed when I was just learning how good New Mexican food could be. At Nellie’s it is not actually stuffed, but the beans, meat, lettuce, cheese, and tomato are put on top of the sopapilla, along with your preference of chile (red or green). Over the years I have enjoyed the meatless version as much as the one withe meat. Either way, I think it is best with the red sauce.
The dish pictured is the regular size, but they also have a small order. Both are relatively inexpensive.
Red Enchiladas are also excellent, and I always like to order them stacked. Because they do not come with blue corn tortillas they do not rise to the level that would put the ones in northern New Mexico. The chile, though, is probably as good as you will find anywhere (my preference is the red, but both are good).
Another item for which Nellie’s is famous is the Salsa. It is spicy, flavorful, and fresh. I have bought some to take home several times, and this is something I would suggest if you have the opportunity.
Anyone who remembers restaurants from the 1970’s will probably know that many places placed an emphasis on utility rather than decor (unless it was a fine dining restaurant). Nellie’s, as a local hangout, provided all the tables and booths that could fit into a small space, and the last time I saw it nothing has changed. Many of the newer restaurants might be considered nicer, but I am glad Nellie’s still allows me to relive the memories of what have really been my favorite New Mexican food experiences in Las Cruces.
Cuisine: Mexican New Mexican
Hours: Open 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (closed Sun. & Mon.)
Smoking: No smoking
Special Features: Serves breakfast
Most Recent Visit: Mar. 22, 2018
Number of Visits: 10+
Best Items: Stuffed Sopapillas, Red Enchiladas, Salsa
Mexican Food Details